Big Thanks: A Round of Applause

October 12, 2015

This is a post I should have done ages ago. It’s also, maybe, not the one you think it is. There are loads of real humans who I know IRL who should be thanked for the work I’ve been able to do since starting Lost Caws. Or perhaps they should be blamed for allowing it to exist? Depends on your point of view, I guess.

Anyway, I like to think I do my best to thank those folks in one on one settings, but this isn’t about them. YOU HEAR THAT? IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

Kidding, sort of. It really isn’t about those people. No, this is about thanking people I don’t even know. It’s about acknowledging a few of the services and websites that I’ve relied on over the last year to make this site be the delicious slice of internet it is. I do this not because I think these sites or people will be particularly grateful for my thanks–they’re unlikely to even know about it, after all. No, this is about saying thanks because 1) I think it’s due and 2) if there’s anyone out there who sees this who’s looking for services they can rely on for similar endeavors, maybe this will help. You’re also welcome to either comment on this post or contact me with questions.

And without further adieu, here are four services that enable me to give you the gift of Lost Caws. You’re welcome or I’m sorry. Your choice.

Bluehost

  • This site is hosted by Bluehost. At the risk of stating the obvious, “hosting” is what actually makes your website available for public consumption. I never quite know what level of technology savvy exists in the world, so if you already know this you can comfortably ignore it. Let’s translate it to the physical world for an oversimplified analogy. Imagine that, if someone wants to share something–art, science, anything really–they need a place to do it. You can either do it all yourself or use someone who says, “hey, pay me some money and I’ll let you share your stuff here in my space.” In the real world, doing it yourself might seem appealing. Online, it’s much less so. Bluehost is an affordable and reliable way to pay someone else to do the hard part. I certainly think of myself as tech savvy, and that definitely makes all of this easier, but Bluehost also offers more high-touch services if you’re wanting to start a website and have basically no idea how to do it.

WordPress

  • Okay, so if Bluehost gives me a space to share my stuff, who builds the tools to actually do that? Who’s responsible for the raw materials and the canvas, so to speak? For me, the answer is WordPress. But if you’re not a WordPress user, there’s a good chance you’d never know it when visiting Lost Caws because so much of what they do slips into the background. WordPress is as a “content management system” or CMS. It is both free and open source, meaning anyone can use it and anyone can extend its functionality by writing more code to make it do more things. This manifests in a number of ways, one of which includes “plugins” which are little bits of software that allow you to extend the basic functionality of WordPress. If this sounds wild and unwieldy, you’re not wrong! Or at least, it can be. But in the case of WordPress and many other well-established open source organizations, it’s actually well-organized and largely painless to the end-user. This has been my experience. WordPress installed in seconds. I pay almost zero attention to it beyond what I actually want to. If you want to be Amazon.com, it probably won’t scale well to that size for you. But if you want to shout things at the internet? It’s tough to beat. Here are a few plugins I use and would happily recommend.
    • Updraft Plus: Easy to use site backup that protects what I do.
    • TablePress: Easily add tables to your posts and pages and save them so you don’t have rebuild the same thing over and over.
    • Dashboard Wordcount: How much stuff have I written? This lets me keep track!

ThemeForest

  • Do you think Lost Caws looks cool? No? Well, then maybe don’t check out ThemeForest. A subset of Envato Market, ThemeForest is where I purchased the theme, or template, of this website. Mine is called “Hemlock,” and it was built by another cool company called Solo Pine. Themes provide the basic nuts and bolts of a site without requiring heavy-duty coding. Hemlock plugs right into WordPress and “just works,” for the most part. I’ve made tiny changes to the basic functions, most of them via built-in options and only occasionally by touching the underlying code. When it comes to HTML and CSS, I know just enough to be dangerous, as they say. I prefer to avoid being dangerous, and Solo Pine has made that easier.

Pixabay

  • All those cheeky, funny, poignant, and otherwise cool photos you see on Lost Caws? Most of ’em come from Pixabay. It’s a free image site with loads of high quality photos from a range of talented artists. Photos are a surprisingly challenging piece of running a small website. Stock images are friggin’ expensive for a small site like mine. To be clear, photographers deserve to get paid for their work. The images on Pixabay are free voluntarily, and I choose to use it not to skirt copyright laws but to play fair with them. Doing this (rightfully) limits my options to a certain extent, but Pixabay makes it possible to find great stuff within my budget ($0). Within Pixabay, there are three photographers/photography sites I’ve relied on more than others who deserve their own shout outs. The first link takes you to their own websites and the second to their stuff on Pixabay.

There are other organizations that probably deserve recognition, but these are the four biggest contributors to making Lost Caws a reality. Anyone out there looking to start a site? I’d be happy to answer questions and help out however I can.

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